Spinal fusion surgery: Is it safe to visit a chiropractor afterwards?

Having spinal fusion surgery can be an extremely frightening experience. You've probably...

Having spinal fusion surgery can be an extremely frightening experience. You've probably gone through months, possibly years, of neck or back pain before making your decision, which includes postoperative therapies such as physical therapy, acupuncture and going to a chiropractor or massage therapist. Many patients who deal with chronic spinal pain, whether in the cervical (neck region), the thoracic (chest region) or the lumbar (lower back region) have considered chiropractic care in hopes of easing spinal pain.

When is spinal fusion surgery considered?

According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal fusion surgery is considered as a result of conditions caused by:

  • Injury
  • Degeneration
  • Weakness caused by scoliosis
  • Tumor growth
  • Herniated disk
  • Spondylolisthesis (when one vertebrae or spinal bone slips forward onto another) or infection either in the lumbar or cervical portions of the spine.

Surgery involves fusing one or more vertebrae together using grafts, metal plates, screws and rods to decrease mobility of the spine in the region of interest to eventually rehabilitate and strengthen the spinal column. Generally, surgery should be the last resort after other types of therapies or holistic approaches have been exhausted.

The big debate over chiropractic care

There is an ongoing controversy between surgeons and chiropractors on the use of chiropractic care after any type of spinal surgery. Many medical doctors do not recommend spinal manipulation and chiropractic care is regarded as complimentary medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, chiropractors are generally not medical doctors but they do have extensive training and study of the spinal column. They use their hands or the help of an instrument to produce small controlled forces to the spine, known as manipulation of the spine.

Chiropractic care should only be considered as an approach before surgery and is strongly contraindicated or suggested not be used within a year or two after spinal surgery. The "twist and pop" method should not be used.

Making a decision

Spinal surgeons caution that recovery from spinal fusion surgery can take up to several years depending on the severity of the original diagnosis. Certain spinal ailments can only be helped with surgical intervention and others handled better with chiropractic care. Let a knowledgeable doctor be your guide and don't be scared to get a second or third opinion.

Tips for pain

  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles. A strong abdomen will help to hold your posture and lessen back pain.
  • Pressure points, reflexology or acupuncture. There are points along feet and hands that when pressed can aid in pain relief.
  • Lose weight. Extra weight can be detrimental for several reasons, but losing weight can lessen the pressure on your spine.

Discuss options with your surgeon, doctor or Atlanta chiropractor if you are not completely sure about your decision. Your spinal column is the home to the spinal cord and nerves that control most body functions. It is important to understand all options and make an informed decision.

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